Writing checks: Prevent forgery with these steps

A few simple steps can significantly reduce the possibility that your check can be forged.

With the prevalence of credit cards and debit cards, one may wonder if checks are still necessary. However, consider how to pay the independent business owner who tows your car when you don’t have enough cash or how to pay the landlord who lives in another community. Writing checks is still a valuable skill all should learn to do correctly.

There are seven steps to preparing a check so that it is done properly and can’t be altered:

  1. To begin, always use an ink pen, preferably black or blue, never a pencil.
  2. Write the date, including year, on which you are writing the check.
  3. On the line “Pay to the order of,” write in the first and last name of the person you are writing the check to or the full name of the business. Fill in any remaining space with a line so that an unscrupulous individual can’t take advantage by adding the word “or” and then his/her name.
  4. Write the amount as close to the dollar sign as possible using numerals and a decimal point. That way a thief can’t change the amount from $10 to $110 or worse, $910.
  5. Use the same procedure when writing the amount in words. Start on the far left and fill any empty space with a line.
  6. For your own future reference, fill in the “Memo/For/Notes” section at the bottom of the check.
  7. Sign your name legibly. Choose a unique form of your name and always sign in that manner, for example, Deb Miller might use “Debra J. Miller” when signing her checks and other important documents.

Make this check writing process a habit because a mistake can cost you money. Consistently following these simple steps will significantly reduce the possibility that your check can be forged or altered.

For more information on writing checks, contact member education link of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).

This skill along with many others will be part of the “Mad City Money” educational simulation activity which was developed by CUNA. The activity will be offered at 4-H Exploration Days on the Michigan State University campus in June. The event is open to youth 11 years of age and older as well as adults from across the state. Contact your local MSU Extension office to learn more about this event.

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